Ever had to give your presentation in a much shorter timeslot than you’d planned? You know – like when one or more of the speakers before you at a conference or workshop runs over time, and the organisers want to start getting things back on track.
Recently, Rob Beisenbach wrote a great post about that, which inspired me to tell you about a rarely-used PowerPoint feature that can help you out in situations like that.
You’ll need to know your content extra well
Most of the burden will still be on you though: You’ll need to know your content extra well to smoothly present a cut-down version at short notice. And it’ll certainly help if you’ve rehearsed the talk in its short form. (Preferably, you’ll have actually given it in a similarly short timeslot, too.)
Anyway, the PowerPoint feature that can help you present your slides in a reduced time is called a “custom show”, and it lets you choose in advance to present only some of your slides. You can even have more than one custom show in your file, such as one called “30-min version” and another called “executive summary”.
Let me show you what I mean. Below, you can see a PowerPoint file with 5 slides in it, in Slide Sorter view. So if you ran the slideshow, you’d step through all 5 slides:
But I’ve also created a custom show in this file, and the custom show includes just the 1st, 3rd and 4th slides. So, on the Slide Show tab, if you click Custom Slide Show and choose that custom show (called “speedy”), PowerPoint starts the slideshow but only includes slides A, C and D, and the audience never knows you have more slides!
This is how you create a custom show: First, click the Slide Show tab, click Custom Slide Show and choose Custom Shows:
You’ll see this Custom Shows dialog box. To make a custom show, click New:
Next you’ll see this Define Custom Show dialog box. Here, you give your custom show a name and choose which slides to include. For this example, let’s call the custom show “speedy”, and double-click the 1st, 3rd and 4th slides to choose them:
To close the dialog boxes, click OK, and then click Close in the Custom Shows dialog box.
So now, if you click Custom Slide Show and choose the “speedy” custom show we just made, when you click through it, you only see the slides we chose:
Bear in mind that each slide in your custom show is exactly the same as in your regular slideshow. That’s one reason I recommend that you put very little content on each slide, so your slides remain flexible. That way:
- In your scheduled talk, you might show a given slide for 60 seconds.
- In your custom show, you might talk about the same slide for just 30 seconds.
With little content on the slide, your audience probably has no clue that you’re giving a cut-down version of your talk. But if you’d filled your slide with content, people would be more likely to feel you were rushing, which gives them a bad impression of you and your message.
So I hope you find this tip useful if you ever find yourself having to give a talk in a much shortened time. If that happens to you, or even if you just try out this technique, let me know how you go!
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